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Proof-reading standards of mainstream publishers

One of the frequently-voiced criticisms of authors who self-publish is that they often are barely literate and produce books that are full of typos, grammatical errors, bad formatting and the like. This is certainly true in some cases, but usually the reader can see a preview of part of the book and not buy it if it is rubbish.

But if you think that buying a book from a mainstream publisher will eliminate all these faults, think again. I am continually seeing similar things in printed books I buy. The latest example is In Search of Time by Dan Falk, published by Thomas Dunne Books (review to follow). I'm not talking about a single error, which would be excusable, but multiple instances. For example:

(1) No space above section headings.

(2) Single words being stretched to take up a whole line.

(3) Asterisks pointing to footnotes that are on the previous page.

(4) Incorrect paragraph formatting, with lines breaking off mid-point.

I know how these things happen: I have to work to eliminate them from my own books. It's because the text was generated by computer and there were bugs in the program that allowed the errors to occur. But even the most cursory reading would have spotted them, so the publisher simply didn't bother. So much for the alleged superiority of mainstream publishers over the independents.


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